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|An historic tornado outbreak of at least 13 tornadoes struck Middle Tennessee on April 16, 1998. Many of these tornadoes were strong or violent and tracked long distances, killing 4 people and injuring nearly 100 people, while causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The most infamous tornado during the outbreak struck downtown Nashville, blowing out numerous windows in skycrapers and causing the collapse of some older buildings. Other notable tornadoes included three violent tornadoes in southern Middle Tennessee that reached F4 to F5 intensity, and an F3 tornado in Pickett County that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. Wilson County was struck by 4 different tornadoes during the event.
This tornado outbreak was unusual in several respects. First, the event lasted nearly the entire day, with the first round of severe weather beginning very early (around 4 AM CST), and the second and more significant round of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes occurring during the afternoon and evening. Second, synoptic features with this outbreak were not noticeably intense, with a relatively weak low level jet stream of only 35 to 45 mph at 850 mb (around 5000 feet above the ground), and a weak area of surface low pressure around 1000-1005 mb located well to the north across the Great Lakes. Upper air soundings at Nashville also were not noticeably impressive, with the 18Z sounding showing veered low level winds and only modest convective available potential energy (CAPE) around 1000 J/Kg. However, a large wind maximum at 500 mb (around 20,000 feet above the ground) of 80 to 90 mph extended from Texas into the Tennessee Valley region, which provided considerable lift for severe thunderstorms to develop throughout the day.
Due to several errors apparent in Storm Data for this historic event, a reanalysis was undertaken in 2013 using radar data, NWS research and documentation, spotter reports, and Google Earth imagery. Based on this information, several updates were made to the times, paths, and damage information for these tornadoes. Some of the longer track tornadoes were also determined to be separate tornadoes, and a final total of 13 tornadoes is listed below. However, a few other tornadoes may have also touched down across Middle Tennessee, as indicated by radar imagery.
Tornado Statistics (2013 Reanalysis)
Upper Air Analysis from Plymouth State University & University of Wyoming
00Z April 16 1998
12Z April 16 1998
18Z April 16 1998
00Z April 17 1998
12Z April 17 1998
300 MB Heights
500 MB Winds
850 MB Winds
1000 MB Heights
Research & Reports
The Forgotten F5
The Forgotten F5 Virtual Library Presentation by Forecaster Mark Rose
NWS Nashville Operations by Forecaster Bobby Boyd
Comparison of Radar Velocity Signatures to Tornado Damage
Tennessee State Library and Archives
April 1998 Storm Data